I grew up in a small town. At a young age I was introduced to the fire and brimstone style of preaching. I was in elementary school and the pastor began describing the fiery lake of hell and asked if any of us wanted to go there. I, of course, decided at that moment to purchase my ‘fire insurance.’
There were many who truly understood what it meant to be saved at that age, but I did not. I grew up trying to do whatever it was I needed to do to stay out of the fiery place that I was so scared of. I never trusted Jesus or understood truly what the cross meant.
It is one thing to be saved and then become a better person and change your behavior out of obedience. But for me, I was living life like all my good and bad deeds were placed on a chalk board. I imagined a big chalkboard with good on one side and bad on the other. If I did something bad then a tally is placed under bad. If there were more bad tallies than good then I was doomed.
This led to a very legalistic relationship with God. I just thought if I could behave or do better than the average of people around me, then I would be good to go. I stayed in church throughout junior high and high school because if you didn’t, then there would be whispers in a small town. He’s a heathen… He’s doing something bad….
I eventually gave up. I tried really hard and, at the end of the day, I wasn’t doing good enough. I couldn’t ever get enough good marks to make up for back-talking my parents or being home after curfew. I began to live my life solely for myself. I focused on football, girls, and friends and that’s about it. So, when it came time to choose colleges I chose to go play college football with a few of my buddies at Austin College.
Basically as soon as I showed up at Austin College, I began to get involved with what I like to call self-destructive and self-harmful behaviors. If you can imagine it then I was probably doing it. I was depressed, unhappy, angry, confused, and stuck in a hole that nothing could pull me out of.
You have to understand, I was on a double academic/athletic scholarship. (They don’t give athletic scholarships in Division Three so the football coach finds a way to get your academic scholarship doubled.) After my freshman year I was going to be starting safety as an upcoming sophomore, I was making good grades (3.75), and yet I was completely and utterly unhappy. I knew something had to change.
I was back visiting home after my first full year in college. This was summer of 2011 and, with my family, I visited a church in Wichita Falls that’s about 30 minutes away from Burkburnett. The pastor was a former cocaine addict and was leading a church for the people that just couldn’t get themselves to go to church because they felt like they were too far gone. The pastor didn’t say anything I didn’t know or any specific catch phrase that I needed to hear but I instantly realized that I needed to leave Austin College.
I continued playing ‘7 on 7’ at Austin College but in the meantime I began to pray that God give me the answers and clarity that I needed. It was coming upon one week before I needed to return to school and about two weeks before school started. I prayed to God before I went to sleep. On this night God spoke to me in a dream. Now this wasn’t a loud deep voice saying “Isaiah, you need to go to Texas Tech.” It was an overwhelming, clear, perfect, and specific command and feeling from God that I was to go to Texas Tech.
Now this was going to be tricky. I needed to talk to my dad, switch schools, and find somewhere to live. I talked to my dad and I didn’t tell him what exactly was going on but I just told him that I felt like I needed to switch schools. He of course thought I was crazy and his answer was no. I don’t blame him. He thought I’d irrationally decided that I simply wanted to leave a school where I was making great grades as well as playing football!
I was crushed. I went back to praying because what you don’t understand is how stubborn my dad is. When he makes a decision, it sticks! I continued to pray. My prayer was answered within 20 minutes. This was a miracle. Within a few days I had also been accepted into Texas Tech, found a place to live, and withdrew from Austin College. It was a season of many miracles.
So, off to Tech I went. At tech I ran into a friend who happened to leave Austin College too and we began hanging out. We were at the Texas Tech rec center one day and he decided he wanted to play volleyball with some people we didn’t know. I absolutely hated volleyball. I think volleyball is a great sport but I tend to avoid situations that I look silly and sports that I’m not good at. But, I figured why not! There I met a guy named Ben Mckelvey. He started talking about this Christian fraternity that he was in. I was turned off at first because of the fraternities that I had known at Austin College.
A few weeks later I ran into Ben again and he and his friend Franky remembered my name and invited me to this thing called Paradigm. I went and was introduced to the Christian part of college and it was beautiful. I didn’t even know this many kids went to church in college. It was packed and the worship and message were incredible. Not to mention, this was on a Thursday night. This is the main night in Lubbock when people go out to drink and party.
After this experience I decided to join the Christian fraternity and Ben Mckelvey became my ‘big.’ Not just any big, the best ‘big.’ I have to reiterate the Christian before the fraternity. This fraternity and the group of men in it were a godsend. This whole time I had been doing, doing, and doing and I learned that it had already been done. This is when I fully surrendered and gave my life to Christ. For now and forever. We spent many nights together going through books of the bible, memorizing scripture, and learning to disciple.
I remember this one night. It was an open mic night and after worship I stood up in front of the chapter and I said all my chains have been broken. I’d experienced depression, the things I couldn’t do, the things I couldn’t quit doing, the self-destructive behaviors, the self-harmful behaviors, the issues with myself and they all had been broken. This of course led to a one-hundred and 180 degree lifestyle switch. It led to meeting my beautiful wife, led to me being in ministry with a passion and a purpose above everything in my life and led to me being on fire for Jesus Christ.
This is my testimony and this is what Easter means to me:
Freedom from sin
Freedom of bondage
Freedom from the things I can’t do
Freedom from the things I can’t quit doing
Freedom from depression
Freedom from anxiety
My name is Isaiah Terry and I want to know Christ and make Him known.